The climatic impact of a Sonoran vegetation discontinuity

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69 Scopus citations


The international fence separating Mexico and the United States is marked by a sharp vegetation discontinuity in the Sonoran Desert. Due to overgrazing, the Mexican side of the border has shorter grasses, more bare soil, and a higher albedo compared to the adjacent lands in the United States. In this investigation, long-term climate records are analyzed to determine the magnitude of any climatic differences associated with the spatial variation in the vegetation regime. The results suggest that summertime maximum temperatures recorded at the Mexican stations are significantly higher (by nearly 2.5 °C) than the Arizona stations when latitude and elevation are held constant. When only elevation is held constant, the difference in the maximum temperature jumps to approximately 4 dgC. No discernible changes in monthly and/or summer season precipitation could be identified in the records. These findings add support to other site-specific field measurements suggesting warming in desert areas where vegetation cover is decreasing and albedo is increasing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)99-109
Number of pages11
JournalClimatic Change
Issue number1
StatePublished - Aug 1 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Atmospheric Science


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